As Opus Cornwall Street celebrates their 10th birthday, we catch up with MD Ann Tonks
Please introduce yourself
I am Ann Tonks, managing director of a small, independent business which runs three dining/drinking venues in the Birmingham city centre – Opus at Cornwall Street restaurant, Bar Opus at One Snowhill and Café Opus at Ikon gallery.
What does your company do?
We run three very different types of venues that complement each other. They cater for a variety of markets from finer dining to casual café to a cocktail bar. Each has its own personality, but each is fuelled by a passion for market fresh. We are independent and ingredient-led.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
We have found over the 10 years since Opus at Cornwall Street opened that it is a great place to do business. Our customers are lovely, friendly people who are knowledgeable about food and drink and are hungry for quality and innovation.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
I think that, no matter where you operate an SME in Britain today, there are challenges in obtaining finance, getting your voice heard, and competing with the all-too-ubiquitous national and international chains. Too many landlords and developers are keen to take the easy route of signing up known chains. That is a key reason why we love operating in the Colmore Business District for two of our venues, because it has burgeoned with like-minded independent businesses.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
Very positively. Birmingham is a great place to do business, and in the last two years there has been a return to confidence.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
Huge advantages: There are highly effective, dynamic BIDS in the city (and the CBD in particular is a big supporter of business); it has a great programme of improving the public realm; it offers world class music, ballet and theatre and it has excellent universities and one of the best educational foundations for secondary schools in the country (King Edward Foundation)
What should our priorities be as a city?
To ensure that we integrate our rich variety of neighbourhoods and ethnicity. To find an effective way of promoting to the nation our cultural and hospitality offerings, which are the most impressive outside of London; we aren’t all just about shopping! To become a city that embraces commerce rather than fighting it – please reduce parking charges!
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
I would open the most spectacular, beautifully designed museum of our heritage proclaiming confidently that Birmingham, through its role in the Industrial Revolution and developing city government, invented the modern world.